Turnover at a major D.C. government department is raising questions about local businesses, political contributions and influence in city politics.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is stepping into the national spotlight this week. As the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, O’Malley has a starring role at this year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. We kick off our coverage of the DNC by sitting down with O’Malley to chat about the issues shaping races across the U.S. and in Maryland this fall.
- Martin O'Malley Governor, Maryland (D)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 in Washington and from the Groundcrew Studios in Charlotte, N.C., welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, how advocates for D.C. voting rights are aiming to make their case here at the Democratic convention in Charlotte and whether any of their fellow party members are paying attention.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut first, we'll be joined shortly by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. He is on his way to the Groundcrew Studios even as we speak. But we've got a question for you. There was a small controversy in which the governor was involved, having to do with his response to a question about whether or not you would say that you are better off now than you were four years ago. He answered that he didn't feel that was the defining question of this fall's elections.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhat do you think? You can start calling us now, 800-433-8850. What do you say is the defining question of this fall's election, and do you think it is whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago? 800-433-8850. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation with Gov. O'Malley there.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILater in the broadcast, we'll be talking with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and the leader of this delegation here in Charlotte, Anita Bonds, who is chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. They'll be talking a little bit about what their activities here will be in terms of trying to secure voting rights for the District which is, so far, not in the Democratic Party platform.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut if you'd like to answer the question of what would you say about whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago and whether that is indeed, in your view, the defining question of this election, call us now, 800-433-8850. We have been here in Charlotte for the last couple of days, and we have seen quite a few demonstrators. In Tampa, you could see many more police officers than you could see demonstrators.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut I think so far here we're seeing more demonstrators that -- than maybe even police officers, although that, I guess, is a question that we will answer during the course of the coming days because there are demonstrations too common. This is, of course, Labor Day when labor organizationists traditionally stage demonstrations. They're highly motivated because North Carolina is a right-to-work state in which unions are discouraged.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd so the labor unions are not particularly happy that the party that they tend to support, the Democratic Party, is having its convention in a right-to-work city. More about that later. But, for the time being, what are your answers to the question about what is the defining issue of this election? We will start with Dmitri -- Dmitra...
NNAMDI...in Washington, D.C. Dmitra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DMITRAOh, thank you. I'm -- in answer to your question, are we better off now than we were four years ago, we certainly are better off. We're going to have national health care plan, the beginning of one. We have an auto industry that was saved. We had some regulations, some small, but some regulations of Wall Street. There are certainly many things that President Obama has put into effect.
DMITRAHe saved the country from financial ruin. And so to ask that question and to not understand that the answer -- so many answers -- positive answers to it. It's very frustrating to me. And that's what I wanted to say, and I'm urging everybody to vote for Obama.
NNAMDIWell, Dmitra, I suspect that the Republicans who raise this issue want to know whether you personally are economically better off than you were before and, B, whether or not if you are or are not you feel that President Obama is to blame?
DMITRAI am -- I have a comfortable family. We're comfortable, and so many of the things that might hurt some people may not hurt me. But my country is better off. And when my country is better off, I'm better off. We're all better off. My country was in great peril, and Obama started us on the road to survival. And I am better off, and so is everyone else. And people who are suffering, I am so sorry for, and I'm willing to pay higher taxes to help them, to pay my fair share as so should the rich people. And so there isn't any question that we're better off in a very fundamental way.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call. We move on to Jo in Germantown, Md. Jo, your turn. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOWell, hi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. My thought is that it takes a very short time to get into this, like our previous administration did. And personally, I know it takes a long time to get out of debt. I've been working at it for four years through the various things from health to helping kids to sadly helping with things like bail, even. But I've got two more years to go, and I know that we'll be out of debt. I think that we're in much better shape with this president, but people have to understand that things take time.
NNAMDIAnd you do not think, it is my understanding, that this should be the defining question of this campaign?
JOI don't. I don't. I think there are so many more important things. People have to have patience. People have to understand that we are moving forward with this administration. And the options of having the Republicans in the White House would be detrimental to everybody. Those of us in the middle class, we do pay our share, and I do believe that the upper few percent should pay more. And that would make all the difference.
NNAMDIOK, Jo, thank you very much for your call. In case you're just joining us, you should know that we're coming to you from the studios of the Groundcrew in Charlotte, N.C., where we await the arrival of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. In the meantime, we're asking you to answer a question, and that is whether you think that whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago should be the defining question of this election.
NNAMDIIs it the defining question in your view? Gov. O'Malley has said that he does not think it should be the defining question. What do you think? We go to Anne in Brookville, Md. Anne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNEI think we need to remember just how it felt four years ago right before Barack Obama got elected and just how dangerous things were and just how horribly things were melting down. And if we only look at what Europe is doing, we could be in their position. If it hadn't been for Barack Obama's experts helping us through this bad time, we could still be in much worse shape than we are now.
ANNEWe have to remember just how bad it was then, and it shouldn't be allowed that people can make a lot of rules. And a lot of those rules, if the Democrats ever went along with them, it was because we were trying to work with them and compromising, get some of the things that we were interested in getting done and then just leave the presidency for four years and then just spend their whole time saying, look, what you did, look what you did.
ANNEAnd when -- we're smarter than that. We can remember. We can see what's gone on. We can see what other leaders have managed to do with this situation in this time. And we can hail Barack Obama for doing as good a job as he's done.
NNAMDIWell, there are people who would say to you the unemployment rate is still quite high. There are millions of Americans looking for work who can't find work. On whom would you blame that?
ANNEI would blame George Bush and the tax cuts that weren't paid for and the -- I don't think that President Clinton should have signed that Glass-Steagall, but that was a compromise that he chose to make with Republicans. That was not his issue. He did not choose to do that. That was their issue when he made the compromise and allowed that to go through. It makes me think, well, maybe we shouldn't do any more compromises 'cause they have absolutely no interest in holding up that they suggested it.
ANNEThat's what they wanted. This whole health care bill, that was what they wanted. This was their way. This was the way they had said back in Bill Clinton's time. This is how they wanted it done. And then when it's done the way they wanted, oh, well, that's not what we wanted. That's -- I'm -- I know the unemployment...
NNAMDISo you think that this is not the defining question of this election? You do feel that President Obama, in your view, has done as much as he could conceivably do to make life better for Americans over the past four years?
ANNEI think we have to really remember. I think it is a defining question. Let's really remember what it was like four years ago. It's easy when we're comfortable, but let's remember how scary it was. Let's remember how many banks were failing. Let's remember just how scary it was and just how much this man had to really, really, really make something happen in order to keep us from falling totally down the tube.
ANNEWe've forgotten. It's easy to forget those dangerous times, but let's remember them. Yes, we are much better off than we were when things were melting down.
NNAMDII suspect they will be remembered here today, Anne, and this week because we are in Charlotte, N.C., where Bank of America and Wells Fargo are both headquartered, so for the Occupy Wall Street movement, they call Charlotte Occupy -- they call Charlotte Wall Street South, so they will be occupying as much as they possibly can here during the course of this week. Thank you for your call.
NNAMDIWe're asking listeners to answer the question of what they think is the defining question of this fall's election and whether it is that Americans are better off now than they were four years ago. Let's try Garrison in Annapolis, Md. Garrison, your turn.
GARRISONHi, Kojo. I guess, when I look at the economy and talk to all of my friends, the thing that really strikes me is the amount of fear that we still have in the country. I mean, people are really afraid for the stability of their jobs. I think they -- even the people who are employed feel like they're still really on the edge, you know? And I think that, you know, we look back -- your last caller talked about the fear we had going into the Obama administration when he first came in, and I don't think we're so far from that same level of fear now.
GARRISONI think that there are just so much uncertainty with workers. I think there's an uncertainty with businesses and business owners. And, you know, there's a really, really low level of comfort and a lot of anxiety with workers and employers. And, I guess, I look back also at when we got into this. And during the campaign, I was listening to McCain and Obama both, and one of the things I really remember, and that stands out, is McCain talking -- I think, he was in one of the rust belt cities, and he was saying that, you know, this is worse than we realize.
GARRISONYou know, a lot of these jobs are gone. They're not coming back. Things are really, really bad. And I remember President Obama jumping on and really criticizing it, chastising him for that statement. And it bothers me that if McCain can see this, if others could see this that Obama didn't see this, he wasn't more prepared. You know, we've got a lot of promises about, you know, a lot of jobs being created.
GARRISONAnd it just seems like everything got snagged up and snarled, and we just didn't make much progress early on when we needed to. And then the other thing that, I think, is also driving the fear is, you know, we look at these mountains of debt that we're creating. And everyone is kind of, you know, when is the hammer is going to drop, what's going to happen with that? It's kind of unprecedented. We've got some people saying it's going to be meltdown. You've got others saying, oh, it's the way things go, way things are. But again, these are unheard of.
NNAMDISo you think that the bottom line is that the president was warned about this and that the president was not able to do as much as he promised to do in order to help with the economy, is that what -- is that your point?
GARRISONI guess that I feel like there wasn't as much done as there should have been. I mean, his own commission, he didn't listen to their recommendations. You know, he has a commission that he appointed for, you know, for the -- to look at the economic situation and to say what should we do, what is the -- I can never remember the name of it, but...
NNAMDIWell, I got to get out of this because Gov. O'Malley has arrived. So one quick question, and do you think that therefore the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan team is better -- in a better position to handle this than the Obama administration?
GARRISONI don't know. I mean, I kind of feel like the -- we're still in a terrible situation. And what bothers me is I don't see any new planning. I mean, it seems like what we're doing isn't working. But I'm not, you know, I'm not saying this new plan...
NNAMDISo you're -- Garrison, are you undecided at this point?
GARRISONNo. I think I'm probably, at this point, probably going to be around the (unintelligible). I'm not thrilled with him.
GARRISONI think we lost a real opportunity with McCain because I feel like no one...
NNAMDIAll right. We got to -- we do have to move on. But thank you very much for your call and thanks to all of those of you who called. Martin O'Malley is the governor of Maryland. He's a Democrat. He's also the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He will have no trouble attracting nationwide attention from this week's festivities. He's the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. That makes him one of the most visible figures at this convention and throughout the party.
NNAMDIIt also makes him a nationwide spokesperson and cheerleader for the party's governing philosophy and its efforts to get candidates elected across the country, responsibilities that are becoming more complicated and more challenging during the heat of this year's presidential election. Gov. O'Malley, thank you so much for joining us.
GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEYThank you, Kojo. Good to be with you.
NNAMDIWe have been talking with listeners on the phone about whether they think that the most important or the defining question of this fall's election is whether they think Americans are better off now than they were four years ago. And from the four callers we talked to, three said it wasn't the defining question. The last caller we'd had on said it was the defining question. But allow me to turn that around. In the most concise way that you can, what would you say is the clearest argument for why your party and your president should be re-elected this fall?
O'MALLEYBecause of the progress that we are making and that we continue to make because of President Obama's better choices in order to get people back to work. We suffered the biggest job losses since the Great Depression. And now, thanks to President Obama's leadership, we have now put together 29 months in a row of positive private sector job growth. Home foreclosures have been driven down to a lower level than they were when he was first sworn in, and we are actually moving forward and not back. And with a little more cooperation from Congress, we could move forward even more quickly.
NNAMDIRepublicans would say as they did at their convention last week that it's past time for the Democrats to be blaming George W. Bush. You pointed out that -- in your interview this weekend, you pointed out that we are still suffering from things that occurred during the Bush administration. What would you say to Republicans who say that we should stop blaming George W. Bush?
O'MALLEYWell, I bet they want all of us to forget about George W. Bush. I mean, it was -- there were more jobs created last year in the private sector and just one year under President Obama than were created in all eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush. There were a few things you did not see at the Republican convention. One was any new ideas on job creation and the second was any -- you saw no mention of George Bush anywhere.
O'MALLEYIt was actually the Republican policies that put our country into this deep recession that caused the job losses, and we have been battling back out of that. So they would like you to forget about that. They are going to -- they and their billionaire buddy backers are going to put so much money on TV. They're counting on people to have a short memory and blame President Obama for this recession when clearly it was not of his making. He's been digging us out of it.
O'MALLEYSo, look, I think -- I do think that the main issue in this race is which of these two candidates has a vision and a plan to move our country forward. And it's clearly President Obama. Mitt Romney subscribes to the same sort of economic theory that got us in this mess. President Obama believes in building an economy from the middle class up. Mitt Romney believes in building in an economy that is dictated by the billionaires down.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue our conversation with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. The number is 800-433-8850. What lessons do you think politicians nationwide should take out of the taxes that higher income earners pay in Maryland? Do you think Maryland citizens are getting the government that they pay for?
NNAMDI800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to email@example.com, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're coming to you from the Groundcrew Studios in Charlotte, N.C., where the Democratic National Convention is set to start tomorrow. Our guest is Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland. He's a Democrat. He's also the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Gov. O'Malley, the president has found it pretty hard this year about asking high-income earners to pay a little more in taxes. You have gone down that road in Maryland already. What lessons do you think your experience in Maryland might have for the rest of the country when it comes to taxes?
O'MALLEYWell, I think it's really the lessons that our parents and grandparents had. And that is that modern economy requires modern investments if we're going to create more jobs and more opportunities for people and especially for our children. And so we've applied that balanced approach to what we've done in Maryland. I made more cuts to our budget than any governor in Maryland history. But on a couple things, we have actually raised taxes.
O'MALLEYI mean, one of them was we had the 42nd lowest sales tax in the nation, and we did raise that by a penny. But we also have the best public schools in America, and that did not happen for free. It did not happen by itself. But it happened for the first time because of the choices we made together to invest more rather than less on education, similarly with making college more affordable.
O'MALLEYSo we have built up for ourselves in Maryland a good quality of life. We have the highest median income in the nation. And as a percentage of income, the -- our tax burden ranks third from the bottom among the 50 states. So there are certain aspects, there are certain investments that are required in order to make our economy grow, and some of those are things we can only do together: infrastructure, education and research and development.
NNAMDIHere is Frieda in Vienna, Va. Frieda, you're on the air with Gov. O'Malley. Go ahead, please. Hi, Frieda. Are you there? Frieda appears to have stepped away from the phone for a while. I'll put Frieda on hold. There are a number of major ballot initiatives coming up this fall in Maryland. Let's talk about these two, for same-sex marriage and the DREAM Act. You spent a lot of political capital moving same-sex marriage through the legislature this year.
NNAMDINow, it's an open question as to whether the law and states' new law offering in-state tuition to some immigrants brought here illegally as children will survive initiatives on the ballot in November. What concerns do you have going into this vote?
O'MALLEYThe -- my concerns, Kojo, are the concerns for the sort of Maryland that my children will live in. And I think that all of us want our children's neighbors to be as strong and as well-educated as they can possibly be because that gives our own children better opportunities. So the DREAM Act or educating Maryland kids simply says that if your parents pay taxes in Maryland, you live in Maryland, you graduated Maryland high schools regardless of where you are in the naturalization process, you should be able to pay in-state tuition at Maryland schools, assuming you have the grades to get in.
O'MALLEYOn the marriage equality, our bill has more protections for religious freedom and religious liberty than any other bill ever passed. And our state has a long tradition from revolutionary times of protecting religious liberty. And this bill allows us to protect religious freedom, but also to protect human dignity and rights equally among people. And I believe that the people of our state will conclude at the end of the day that every child's home should be protected equally under the law.
O'MALLEYSo I believe that the true Maryland and our truer history is one of inclusiveness and greater freedom and greater respect for all. So I believe that the people of our state will pass both of these referenda.
NNAMDIThe other matter on the ballot this fall on Maryland is whether the state's gambling program should be expanded to allow table games and whether Prince George's County should be allowed to build a casino. You've said that you are sick of this issue and that the state needs...
O'MALLEYSo sick of this issue.
NNAMDI...that the state needs to move forward.
NNAMDIWhere does it need to move forward to?
O'MALLEYWell, the legislature passed a bill that I introduced that would allow for one additional site in Prince George's County and also for expansion to table games. We went through this debate a few years ago. I thought that we'd be able to move on after that but the -- it passed when it went to referendum. It passed in every single county usually by double digits. So I believe that having made that decision, probably the voters will move to expand to table games and also that sixth site in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIThink it's going to happen. Let's go back to Freda in Vienna, Md.
O'MALLEYHere she is.
NNAMDIFreda, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
FREDAThank you. I am basically responding to your earlier question, but I do want to say for many reasons I'm beginning to wish I lived in Maryland and not in Virginia.
O'MALLEYGod bless you.
FREDAI feel strongly that my family -- I have adult children. All of us are better off at this point in time than we were four years ago. But what I think is that the real defining question for me as a woman is the fact that I will be much worse off if the Republicans are elected in November.
NNAMDIWhat do you feel is the defining issue in this election, Freda?
FREDAThat's what I believe is the defining issue, that women will be much worse off under Republican administration. The -- their platform that tries to make a human embryo a person essentially means that if the embryo is a person, then the mother has no rights at all. And that, to me, very wrong, but there are many other things that have been happening in the course of time especially here in Virginia that make it very frightening for me to think of living under a Republican administration.
NNAMDIAllow me to have Gov. O'Malley respond. The Obama administration certainly has been doing better than the...
NNAMDI...Romney campaign in terms of women so far in this campaign. Gov. O'Malley.
O'MALLEYWell, I think you will -- I think there's a big philosophical difference that you'll see being played out between Gov. Romney's vision of America and President Obama's. President Obama's vision is of a much more -- of growing, ever more inclusive America where freedoms are enjoyed more fully by all people. Gov. Romney has a more exclusive vision of our country, and it's reflected in his top-down, the billionaires dictate the economic policies.
O'MALLEYAnd so I think that there -- you see a down payment a little bit, Kojo. You know, we hear Mitt Romney and also Congressman Ryan talk about how they want to take America back. We've seen what it's like to be taken back when you look at some of the more recently elected Republican governors, rolling back women's rights, rolling back workers' rights, rolling back voting rights.
O'MALLEYI don't think that that's the direction forward, and I think that there are a lot of Republicans, frankly, who are, I think, pretty appalled at some of the actions that some of these newly elected Republican Tea Party types have been engaged in especially where women and voting rights are -- and workers' rights are concerned.
NNAMDIWell, by contrast, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, your neighbor and your counterpart as the head of the Republican Governors Association, argued at the RNC last week that if you want to see why a Romney administration would be successful, just look at the states with Republican governors. He said Republican-led states represent seven of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates. Twelve of the 15 states rank best for business. What's your argument for why Democratic leadership at the state level is more effective?
O'MALLEYLast year, the rate of job growth in states governed by Democratic governors was twice what the rate of job growth was in states governed by Republican governors. Four of the five slowest-performing states in terms of job growth are governed by Republican governors. We believe as Democratic governors that the investments we make in education, infrastructure and innovation are the things that allow us to create jobs and expand opportunities throughout our state. And that's what we're going to continue to do.
NNAMDIWhen are you scheduled to speak at the convention? Do you know yet?
O'MALLEYKojo, I'm told I will be speaking just before the keynote address on Tuesday night. What is today, Monday?
O'MALLEYWe got one week already, and it only has just begun.
NNAMDIThe convention starts tomorrow. And we got -- you have two gigs also this week that don't have to do with speaking at the convention. We will talk about that in a second. What hopes do you have, though, that maybe four years down the road your speaking gig will involve accepting the party's nomination for president?
O'MALLEYYou know what? I'm entirely focused on November. Why are you laughing at me?
NNAMDIBecause I knew you'd duck the question.
O'MALLEYI always have. But I respect and I appreciate it, as does my mom who's probably listening, that you would ask that question. I'm entirely focused on governing the state of Maryland and also doing everything I can to help Democratic governors and the president win re-election in the fall. And that's really been my -- that's my focus and that will remain my focus.
NNAMDIAnd -- I said you've got two gigs -- other gigs coming up on this convention. Those are not exactly speaking gigs. What are those?
O'MALLEYI'll be playing later on this afternoon with Jeff Bridges and his band, great movie, "Crazy Heart," and...
NNAMDIYeah, I know.
O'MALLEY...so Jeff will be doing a number...
NNAMDIMovie stars, politicians, they all reinvent themselves as musicians.
O'MALLEYThey -- so I'm going to do a small, you know, Burgess Meredith or Colin Farrell cameo when -- on Jeff's stage, and then I'll be playing for the Maryland delegation at their party on Wednesday.
NNAMDIIn recent election cycles, Republican leaders like Ryan, Paul Ryan, have confronted a unique challenge. They like to play iconic music from their playlist, but those songs are often written musicians who happen to be, well, Democrats, and the musicians actually ask them to stop playing them at their events. Paul Ryan has also said he's a big fan of Rage Against the Machine, a band that has very left-wing politics.
NNAMDIGov. Chris Christie is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, even though Springsteen also leans solidly left. What are the bands on your playlist, and do any of them, as far as you know, disagree with you politically?
O'MALLEYOh, golly. You know, I listen to a lot of XM Coffee House, and my daughters, 21 and 20 make, fun of me for this. Bruce Springsteen is certainly on my playlist. I love his song, especially "Land of Hope and Dreams," listen to a lot of Irish stuff, but mostly I'm on -- I mean, I like all music, but I had been listening to Coffee House XM. I guess it goes with my over-caffeination these days.
NNAMDIDo you ever find yourself listening to lyrics that you yourself are opposed to? Find them on your iPod, songs that, well, yeah, I like the song, but, you know, this is not my political philosophy?
O'MALLEYI don't know. I just -- I don't know that I'm not zoned in or zeroed in on that. I mean, it's usually something that's kind of going on in the car just to keep things copasetic.
NNAMDIWell, yeah, he will be performing himself, as he said, twice during the course of this convention. He also happens to be the governor of Maryland. Martin O'Malley, he's a Democrat. He's also the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Thank you so much for joining us.
O'MALLEYKojo, thank you. Good to see you.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, how advocates for D.C. voting rights are aiming to make their case here at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. We'll be joined by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton. Anita Bonds, she's the chairperson of the Democratic State Committee of the District of Colombia. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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